At last!, those who never got a copy of the VHS version of Invincible Pole Fighter which was deleted a few years ago, can now see the classic after Celestial have fully remastered the title. This film is also known as 8 (Eight) Diagram Pole Fighter. It took HK $3,792,000 during its run in 1983.
This film stars the Master Killer (Gordon Liu) himself and a supporting cast that boasts the quality of Alexander Fu-Sheng, Liu Chia-Liang and Wang Lung-Wei. Well, You know you're in for a treat. Basically I don't think I have seen pole fighting as good as this before, plus the extravagant set and the shrewd use of wire work lead to a genuine but emotional Shaw Brothers classic.
There are the 7 Yang Brothers, named Yang 1 -7, and two sisters (8 &
9), truly inspired! The story begins with the Yang brothers being double
crossed and only 5 (Gordon Liu) and 6 (Fu Sheng) surviving the bloodbath.
This all happens during the opening credits, which on this transfer use
two different sources which is pretty terrible. However, Liu dares not
return home for fears of being seen as a deserter and instead escapes
from the army with the help of Liu Chia-Liang and goes to the Shaolin
Gordon has been passing his time at the Shaolin Temple perfecting his pole fighting, but only after the mandatory 5 minutes of:
"You have anger inside you, you cannot be a monk"
"I am not your master, Yada Yada Yada..."
They eventually let him in, even though they are fully aware he is only coming along to perfect his skills and exact revenge on Wang Lung-Wei and co! To be honest, do you actually think any of the monks in the Shaolin Temple are actually there to become 'at one' with themselves? Surely the entrance form to a Shaolin Temple must look like this:
Why do you wish to enter our Temple and become a Shaolin Monk (tick one only) ?
Some very cool training sequences follow, including a wooden wolf where Gordon Liu is taught to break its teeth rather than kill the wolf (I'm sure his Friends of the Earth medal is in the post). But this all leads to a sensational pole fight at the end, infact virtually all the film is fighting apart from the parts when Fu Sheng is shouting and being generally deranged. The ending rocks and has some elements similar to from Jet Li's Shaolin Temple 3 which was made a few year later and also directed by Liu Chia-Laing, with the Monks helping at the end.
Anyone who is familiar with the magical chemistry that Gordon Liu and Liu Chia-Liang manage to generate when the latter is choreographing, will be delighted with the end fight. Furthermore, Hui Ying-hun and Gordon Liu seem to work amazingly well together (see Fist of the White Lotus and Shaolin & Wu Tang). Wang Lung Wei, rocks in this film, he has true pedigree as an Old Skool baddie. He also starred in other Gordon Liu classics such as Return to the 36th Chamber, Shaolin & Wu Tang and Dirty Ho. The only thing this film was missing is Yasuaki Kurata!
Celestial Pictures Release (IVL): The Celestial Disc is up to the expected superb quality. Picture, sound and presentation are of a very high standard (anamorphic remastered widescreen and DD 5.1 audio). There is also the normal crop of extras that accompany most Celestial releases.
Venoms Mob Release (Ventura Distribution): This release of Eight Diagram Pole Fighter is a bootleg video transfer, no re-mastering has been done, two distinctive sources are used, the sound is hissy, the picture is full-frame (this totally screws up many of the pole fights) and the Yang Elder death is cut at the beginning, so you spend a few minutes trying to understand why he's dead!! Do not buy this if you already have a VHS version.
This is the disc we have been waiting for. One of the darkest and most exhilarating Shaw Brothers movies has been given the remastering treatment that the film deserves. There is so little to find fault in this film, including what many consider to be Gordon Liu's finest dramatic performance. This is overshadowed by the breath-taking martial arts that once again puts Gordon Liu and Liu Chia-Liang at the top of their profession.
Now we have the real deal available to us, please stop supporting bootleg versions (ie. Venoms Mob) that will undoubtedly be flogged at bargain prices over the coming montns